UNHCR slams Lebanese ban imposed on Syrian refugees

Photo: UNHCR slams Lebanese ban imposed on Syrian refugees / Arab World

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) slammed a decision by the Lebanese authorities to ban Syrian refugees from heading to their country or lose their status, rejecting to hand over to the state the complete data of the refugees, Naharnet reported.

According to As Safir newspaper, the UNHCR complained in a meeting with Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas that the decision is "negative."

Sources close to UNHCR told the daily that the U.N. agency also refuses to grant the Lebanese state the full access to the Syrian refugees data, fearing that it might be used wrongfully.

The agency, according to the sources, only hands over to the state the number of Syrians registered with it and their locations,

The sources wondered if it was normal to lose the refugee status "for jeopardizing your own life to check on a relative or your property."

The daily reported that the UNHCR had warned that the "decision taken by the Lebanese state will have a negative impact on it as it is considered to be an open invitation for the refugees to remain on its territories."

Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced on Saturday that Syrian refugees in Lebanon will lose their status as such if they return home for a visit.

More than a million Syrians have fled their war-torn country for Lebanon in the past three years, according to the United Nations.

"Syrian displaced people who are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees are requested to refrain from entering into Syria starting June 1, 2014, or be penalized by losing their status as refugees in Lebanon," said the interior ministry.

The statement, published by the National News Agency, said the measure is grounded "in a concern for security in Lebanon and the relationship between Syrian displaced and Lebanese nationals... and in a bid to prevent any friction between them."

The decision, which took effect Sunday, was issued two days after tens of thousands of Syrians flocked to their Beirut embassy to vote in the election.

The refugee influx into Lebanon has burdened the country's weak economy, with politicians on all sides calling for measures to limit the flow.

Lebanon has not signed the Convention on Refugees, and refers to Syrians forced out of their country by war as "displaced."

The authorities say the actual number of Syrians in Lebanon is far higher than the nearly 1.1 million accounted for by UNHCR.

Lebanon has frequently complained it lacks the necessary resources to cope with them, and that the labor market is struggling to accommodate them.

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